Thursday, May 15, 2008

Are you ready for the digital TV transition?

As you have probably heard, the transition to digital TV will occur in February 2009. Which means that anyone using rabbit ears for TV reception will need a converter box. Those of us that have basic analog cable can relax …a little bit. I currently receive analog cable and have an analog only TV set. According to this article, the FCC is requiring cable companies to continue to make all local broadcasts available to their users, even those with analog televisions until 2012. The cable operators have two choices. They can either continue to convert the digital signal to analog and pipe it out to homes or they can offer the digital signal only and roll out converter boxes to all their subscribers.

Hmmm. The keyword in that sentence is: local. I interpret that to mean my TV will only receive the local yokel stations and not the full suite that basic cable now supplies. I will probably need to upgrade to a digital cable package to receive anything beyond local TV stations.

I watch very little TV now, when I do watch, it is usually CNN or CNBC news and finance programs and of course sports on ESPN and TNT. I would not expect those to be local broadcasts and will require a digital Standard Definition (SD) or digital High Definition (HD) cable package.

I anticipate that I will want to upgrade, but for now, I have decided to order the coupon for the set top digital conversion box. I want to try this setup first and if I decide to upgrade later, I will still have a backup system in place. A backup is desired in the event of storms or bad weather. It is common to lose satellite TV transmissions during storms and for those with cable transmissions, the actual cable can be disconnected due to down trees or lines.

Just last week, my neighbor cut down a tree and took out the cable for the entire block. This was on a Sunday and TimeWarner Cable initially told him they would not be out until Tuesday! He explained to them that a lot of people were without cable and many had their phones on that line, as well. Fortunately, TWC relented and sent out a repairman that had us all back up within 8 hours of the incident. During that cable-less time, I watched the NBA quarterfinal game through a blizzard! I had forgotten just how bad analog TV reception can be. After that reminder, I am enjoying my crystal clear picture more now than ever. ;)

That brings me to another factor to consider. With my own converter box, I expect improved picture resolution. My existing Yagi antenna will receive the digital transmission which will then be converted at the box sitting on top of my TV. This should improve the picture resolution over that of the cable company converting the digital signal and then piping an analog signal to my house. The shorter distance that the analog signal travels the less likely it will be exposed to interference/noise.


  1. everything i watch on tv i get online !

    if they don't offer analog TV or a digital setop box for free I'll just throw away the idiot box all together!

  2. That's great. I'm not quite ready to part with watching sports on the big screen, yet.